In October 2015, the California Academy of Sciences, in partnership with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, and the Smithsonian Institute, sponsored the Climate Game Jam, a weekend-long game creation sprint. During the Academy’s Climate Game Jam, five teams of game developers were challenged to create a working prototype of a game on a specific climate science topic.
Among the games prototyped that weekend was “Cornucopia,” a farm simulation game designed to educate the player about climate challenges like drought, the comparative water requirements of cultivating different crops, and the technological innovations that improve the water efficiency of farming. Created by five independent game developers calling themselves team “Sweetwolf”, Cornucopia stood out for its engaging and colorful gameplay, original soundtrack, and clear connection to food and climate topics.
After the Climate Game Jam, the Academy’s Digital Learning team continued to work with team Sweetwolf to further develop Cornucopia, in order to make it more suitable for a K-12 classroom environment. Emily Cassidy, a food and climate expert from the University of Minnesota, advised on the science behind the game and vetted the scientific accuracy of the game. An educator’s guide was developed for the game, to help teachers easily get started using the game in their classrooms.
In the Spring of 2016, the game was pilot tested by the Academy's Digital Learning TechTeens, by a dozen K-12 teachers in their classrooms across California, and by about 800 youth at three math-oriented youth festivals held in Illinois, Idaho and California.